Liverpool beat Brighton on final day to secure top four
In reality Liverpool approached this game from a position of strength, needing just a point to secure the target of Champions League qualification. For around twenty minutes though, we were reminded of just how delicate these positions can be. It appeared, albeit briefly that the recent frustrations had turned up again to spoil the party. Liverpool dug in though and prevailed in the Anfield sunshine, showing once again that form despite being costly, is temporary.
Early chances spurned
The relief was palpable when Mo Salah tucked home a record breaking thirty-second Premier League of the season. We all know, the longer these games drag on at nil-nil, the more emboldened the opposition, so it was truly a weight off to get the advantage. In truth, despite the nerves, we dominated the match from start to finish and really could have had at least two by the time the Egyptian tapped home in front of The Kopp.
Irritatingly the panic was there at times and yet again we were left scratching our heads at some really poor refereeing. Sadio Mane should have cut the ball back a few minutes before the breakthrough, choosing to shoot instead from an angle the goalkeeper would always have covered. Equally frustrating, a few moments after the first goal, both he and Salah bore down two on one on the Brighton keeper and somehow contrived to not score and put the game to bed before thirty minutes had been played.
A clear penalty for a foul and a probable second for handball were both missed by Kevin Friend. The foul on Salah was particularly irksome as he was right in front of a blatantly mistimed lunge and bizarrely signaled play on. It is the fourth clear penalty not award in four matches and was threatening to add to our frustration with the game still in the balance.
The Reds rallied and showed their improved character, with Lovren’s superb leap and bullet header doubling the advantage before halftime as news spread that Newcastle were beating Chelsea.
The second half continued in much the same vein with Liverpool calmly dictating play but being a tad more patient in opening up the Brighton lines. Salah turned provider on fifty three, playing in Dominic Solanke from the right, for his first goal in a red shirt, Liverpool had wrapped it up and the fans turned up the volume. Andy Robertson’s first goal for the club arguably got the loudest cheer of the match, with just five minutes to play, poking in from close range after great play from Adam Lallana.
In truth it was a very professional and efficient job as we banished recent poor results, to get over the line into fourth. Had Leicester hung on at Wembley we would have nicked third, but ultimately this was about getting a consecutive season in the top four under our belts, before switching our attention to Real Madrid on 26th May.
Liverpool showed today the kind of football which has won praise all season. Brighton’s back four looked weary and stretched as our ceaseless movement and switches in position stopped them from settling.
A few isolated results aside, its been a satisfying Premier League campaign, with a stunning eighty-four goals scored. Mohamed Salah’s exploits have gone far beyond what of any of us dared hope for. His record breaking thirty-two goal haul in the Premier League has been a joy to watch as has the improvement in Bobby Firmino and Sadio Mane, both contributing wonderfully to a strong campaign.
Goals against still needs some improvement, but when you consider nine of the thirty-eight conceded were in two heavy defeats, pre-Virgil Van Dijk and Andy Robertson’s establishment, all is not so bad. Trent Alexander-Arnold has also been a real plus this season at right back, playing with maturity and quality that transcends his young age. Kiev will dominate our thoughts for the next fortnight, but at least for today we can all sit back and reflect on yet another strong season with Jurgen Klopp still building towards a genuine challenge on Manchester City’s perch.